Aims of the network

The extensive introduction of robotics in manufacturing industry has been a fact in the last decades. Most of capacities that envisage higher production performance levels are in the field of artificial intelligence applied to manufacturing tasks. However, some social aspects of automation are still not yet solved. Some deals with ergonomic design, but most deals with responsibility, situation awareness, risk assessment and quality of working life. In safer cooperative working conditions are relevant topics under the research topics expertise of “social implications of robotics”.

The traditional idea that automation is a technological milestone with evident economic and unquestionable benefits is still an approach that ignores research on the relation of automation and work organisation. Advanced automated systems can also be applied to worse working conditions and improve them. Humans are better at dealing with unexpected events to keep production lines running. But this perspective has been continuously threatened through other approaches that aim to avoid involvement of humans in the automated production systems. Further studies point out the aspects related with safety in automated systems and responsibility on failures or unexpected occurrences. Interaction of humans with robots increases the importance of such aspects. This should not be a merely ergonomic dimension, but it should strengthen organisational issues (social implications) where different options are available. Organisational models that are able to achieve flexibility under complex frameworks are those that include advanced automated systems with the human involvement in decision process.

The social dimension derived from the worker-robot interaction possibilities in industry become a decisive aspect of the framework possibilities. This is a central motivation of this network. It started with a workshop where it was discussed, analysed and assessed the different technical options due to social features based on organisational strategies.

This network will cover also the focus on participative organisational which include different learning processes, competence building and decentralised decision making. This means that the place of humans in the design of HRI must be clear. These are concepts with higher relevance in production environments which have been neglected in the last two decades. The development of working competences, of distributed decision making and task enrichment systems, should integrate the new industrial robotics developments in order to improve the quality of work life standard. Such options and challenges will be intensively debated in the near future.